Could we really make this work?
Simon Caroll explores new models of Democracy which are better equipped for our modern society.
Sometimes we see disruption coming and sometimes it comes straight out of left field. Innovation and opportunity usually create the conditions for it to happen. But when it comes to politics it is surely a matter of necessity.
Public perception of politics and politicians is not favourable, to put it kindly. Britain’s vote to leave the EU is as much an angry protest against the political establishment as a verdict on membership. The leaders of all main UK parties backed staying in. The high 72% turnout is an expression of disdain rather than a measure of typical engagement. The hard-won right to vote is usually exercised by barely half the eligible people in America and Britain. It seems like the distance between us and those we elect to represent us has never been greater — and our opinion of them has never been lower.
Of course, there are many, many politicians — the ones who tend to get written about less — who work hard to represent their constituents. Doing so can come at a bitterly high price, as in the case of Labour MP Jo Cox who was shot and stabbed to death on her way to a constituency surgery this month.
The febrile atmosphere of Britain’s referendum on EU membership was the background against which this tragedy played out. The campaigns for Leave and Remain have been characterised by a cynical disregard for truth and fact in what is a highly complex debate. The events of recent months feel like a low-water mark in British politics. So what now?
We’ve seen insurgent business models up-ending established industries and creating sudden, massive demand for the new where seemingly none existed — just look at the poster disruptors Airbnb and Uber. There is a real sense that the time has come for digital disruption to do something similar to politics. Websites keeping an eye on politicians and offering us tools to help us engage have existed for some years, but they are now growing in number, evolving and — crucially — becoming more visible.